Kelly Durbin, Austin, Texas, USA
As La Leche League Leaders, our main mission is to support the normal course of breastfeeding. We provide practical support as well as encouragement and information to mothers and families with a wide range of breastfeeding-related issues that come up in the first weeks, months and years. But have you ever wondered what else people take away from our meetings besides breastfeeding support?
Although each LLL meeting is different in size, composition, group dynamics, location and structure, there are many similarities. One striking similarity is that LLL Groups tend to serve the parents in the breastfeeding community with more than information and support for breastfeeding.
Perhaps you can remember your own first experience at an LLL meeting. Perhaps you found LLL because you were searching for breastfeeding and/or parenting support but found other benefits or resources by attending the Group. Possibilities include:
- Community and friendships. LLL Groups often foster a sense of community among attendees. Many mothers report that the LLL Group provides them with a place to find like-minded parents, feel a sense of normalcy, discover a place to belong and even make firm friendships to last a lifetime. Because breastfeeding can sometimes feel very isolating, our meetings provide a welcome oasis for parents.
- Connection and company. Many mothers continue to attend meetings with their babies, even though breastfeeding is going quite well. They might say, “I didn’t come with questions today. I am here to get out of the house and to connect with others.” An LLL meeting is a wonderful way to connect with others, while learning more about breastfeeding and parenting. The current COVID-19 pandemic has put a slight damper on the face-to-face connection that our meetings offer but it is still possible to connect at an online meeting. Hopefully, we will be able to resume in-person meetings in the future.
- Resources. Mothers often come to LLL meetings with lots of questions about parenting resources, often beyond our expertise as Leaders. Sometimes their questions are related to breastfeeding, while at other times, their questions are only loosely related to parenting and breastfeeding. When questions are beyond the normal scope of breastfeeding, we can help parents find a lactation consultant or other specialist in the local area who can help with more complex breastfeeding issues. When suggesting other practitioners, try to include a range of reputable options, not just one person or practice. Occasionally, parents ask about our recommendations for infant car seats, bottles, cups, breast pumps or other products. In these cases, it is best to refer them to online reviews or to other mothers. As Leaders, we do not make product recommendations.
- Library. Many LLL Groups keep a library of breastfeeding and parenting books. Even a small library with a few well-chosen books on breastfeeding topics can provide an amazing resource for new parents. Check with LLL Leader resources in your Area or LLL entity for specific titles to include in your Group library. At the very least, keep a copy of the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, if available in your language, for your Group.
- Mental health check in. While providing mental health support is not part of our expertise, it is not possible to separate the mother from the baby in the context of breastfeeding nor separate the mother from her mental state. If a mother expresses questions about postnatal blues and depression, or explains that she is having trouble coping or feels overwhelmed, use empathy and acknowledge her feelings. You can refer mothers to their primary care doctor or other local postnatal mental health services in your area.
Undoubtedly, the most important service we provide new parents is information and support for the normal course of breastfeeding. But this certainly is not the only element of our service. It is important for Leaders to recognize that mothers come to LLL meetings seeking information, but they also may come seeking community, connection or local resources.
Are you aware of other benefits or resources that people gain from your LLL meetings? Reach out to us at Leader Today and share your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to highlight experiences from your Groups in a future article.
Kelly Durbin has been a Leader for about ten years in the United States with experience leading meetings in five different states across the country. She, her husband and their two daughters now live in Austin, Texas, USA.